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Slow Down to Win Customers

Slow Down to Win Customers

Winning new customers and keeping current ones happy isn’t helped by trying to work too fast. Customers are rarely as impressed by sheer speed as they are by clear evidence that you are trying to understand their real needs and make sure you can deal with them fully.

The easiest way to make anyone feel special is to give them your time and undivided attention. By slowing down, giving each customer more attention, and taking the time you and they need to work out what they truly want, you’ll get better results than the people who try to rush through their time with any one customer to hurry on to the next.

The Power of Attention

When someone gives you their full attention, you naturally feel valued and important. It’s an automatic human response. In contrast, if you get the feeling that the other person is paying you scant attention, it passes a clear message that something or someone else is more important than you are.

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It’s fatally easy when you feel harassed and under pressure to deal with other people, even customers, with the greater part of your attention elsewhere. If that is what happens, you will be sending that customer a silent message that, whatever words come out of your mouth, you are actually less interested in them and their needs that you are in something else.

It is a myth that pressure concentrates or focuses the mind. The reverse is true. Under pressure, human minds do not work so well. Anxious brains are far less effective than calm ones. Look at the problems many people experience with examination nerves, or how they become flustered and anxious when they must give an important presentation. No one can think as clearly in a rush as they can when they feel calm and relaxed.

Slowing Down Helps Focus

The best way to restore full focus on the task in hand, or the customer in front of you, is to slow down. Which is better: to rush from client to client, never quite giving any of them your full attention (and so gaining little or no business as they respond to the sense they are of little value), or to deal with fewer clients in a day and give each your full attention? If you take the second course, you can be nearly certain you’ll win more business overall.

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Customers prefer to deal with people and organizations that treat them well and make them feel important. They judge value by how well their needs are met and any problems they have are solved, fully and permanently. They aren’t interested in your sales quota or the pressures you face to make your budget. As far as each customer is concerned, they are the only one, and that’s how they expect, deep down, to be treated.

Quick Fixes Won’t Help

Imagine yourself as a customer with a problem or a concern. Which of these experiences will make you feel better?

  • Before you have even fully explained you problem, the sales person jumps in with a solution. You aren’t convinced he or she even listened to you properly. Besides, their suggestion sounds like an off-the-shelf answer. It works, sort of‚ but it doesn’t quite solve your problem to the full. You suspect you’ve been given the quick fix.
  • The sales person listens carefully, asks questions and seems to have all the time in the world to deal with you and your concerns. When you finish, the sales person asks for a little time to think carefully about what you said to be able to come up with a good solution. A day or so later, the sales person contacts you with a response that exactly fits your problem and leaves you confident it has been solved and you will face no further hassle.

Most sales people know the second approach is right. What prevents them from following it is unreasonable pressure from their own management, who often equate more business with more busyness.

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Time is a Precious Gift

Organizations that drive sales and customer service staff so hard that they cannot spend the necessary time with customers are shooting themselves in both feet. In their mad urge to maximize short-term results, they end by alienating their long-term customer base and driving them to competitors. Winning a new customer is extremely expensive; keeping an existing one saves costs and provides stable and predictable sales—the holy grail of most organizations.

Few gifts are as precious as your time. When you deal with people calmly and without haste, you increase their feelings of our value and their sense of confidence in what you have to offer. The harassed doctor giving each patient five minutes and a prescription will handle scores of people in a day, yet send each one away uncertain about their treatment and worried about the diagnosis. The school teacher facing too many pupils cannot spend enough time with any of them to make a difference to their learning. The overworked sales or customer service professional trying to deal as quickly as possible with current clients to free time to prospect for more, is forced into actions that are very likely to lose business instead of win it. The employer who forces this on them to supposedly save costs is acting in the most shortsighted way imaginable.

Slowing down seems counterintuitive when you are feeling under pressure, but it is nearly always the best way forward. Try it.

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Related Posts:

P.S. You may already be aware of ChangeThis: It’s a site that publishes 15-20 page PDF “manifestos” on topics of interest to people who think about their world. To be able to publish a manifesto on ChangeThis, you must first submit a proposal. Visitors to the site then have the opportunity to vote on the manifestos they would most like to see written. Those with the highest number of votes are the ones chosen for publication.

Slow Leadership has submitted a proposal to publish a manifesto. You can find it here. Please go to the site and vote for us! That’s the only way to make sure the manifesto is published. Thanks. We need your help on this one.

Adrian Savage is a writer, an Englishman and a retired business executive. He lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his serious thoughts most days at Slow Leadership, the site for everyone who wants to bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership; and his crazier ones at The Coyote Within.

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Last Updated on April 23, 2019

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

What Is a Stretch Goal?

A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

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In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

1. Get Outside of Your Head

If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

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2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

I see this in so many areas of life:

When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

“Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

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When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

S.M.A.R.T.

is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

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One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

The Bottom Line

These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

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